Posts Tagged ‘india strategy’
I’ve written a piece for the World Politics Review about the role of strategic forecasting in Indian foreign policy thinking and foreign policy making. It draws on the main works written in India over the past decade or so and assesses their main ideas, quality and utility within policy-making circles. Here are a few first paragraphs on what the main thesis was:
With its rich civilizational history and long tradition of argumentation, India is no stranger to grand strategy. In 300 B.C., Chanakya, better known as Kautilya, the main adviser to King Chandragupta during the Mauryan Dynasty, wrote “The Arthaashastra,” a treatise on statecraft, military strategy and economic policy still referred to by many strategists today.
Yet many foreigners and Indians alike have noted that this tradition of strategic thinking has not found its way into contemporary Indian foreign policy. In 1992, the American analyst George Tanham famously wrote (.pdf) that India had “produced little formal strategic thinking and planning.” Pratab Bhanu Mehta, an influential academic and current head of the Center for Policy Research (CPR) in New Delhi, has noted not only the lack of a “grand strategy” in Indian foreign policy thinking, but also the absence of traditional foreign policy drivers, such as the quest for power. The concept of nonalignment championed by India’s first prime minister, Jawarhal Nehru, which advocated preserving India’s freedom to act by not aligning it to any bloc or alliance, did serve as a guidepost for Indian foreign policy during the Cold War decades of superpower rivalry. However, the end of the Cold War left India without a clear foreign policy strategy for the dramatically changed global order that followed.
That has begun to change over the past decade or so, which has seen a proliferation of high-quality works devoted to Indian foreign policy strategy that provide a window on how India’s strategic thinkers view the world and India’s role in it in the next few decades. In more recent works, there has also been a concerted attempt to either conduct or draw upon rigorous strategic forecasting as part of the analysis and to integrate differing global scenarios into charting India’s future foreign policy strategy. A survey of what is being written and what is being said by Indian officials also suggests that foreign policy thinking by India’s strategic community is in the early stages of being integrated into the making and articulation of actual foreign policy. Though the extent of this congruency is difficult to measure and will probably be more visible only after another decade, these early signs are nonetheless promising.
You can read it on the WPR website here.
With the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue concluding earlier this month, what does the future look like for the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies? I consider this question in a piece for World Politics Review. I’ve pasted it below.
The Future of U.S.-India Relations
Judging by the atmospherics on display during last week’s inaugural U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, the bilateral relationship between the two countries appears to be on solid footing. U.S. Under Secretary for Public Affairs William Burns called the relationship “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of a joint responsibility to “determine the course of the world.” U.S. President Barack Obama even made a surprise visit at the dialogue’s reception, and announced that he would visit New Delhi in November.
Yet this flowery rhetoric masks the complex realities of what has been and continues to be a testy relationship between Washington and New Delhi. Even today, Indians worry that the United States is cozying up to Pakistan and China at their expense, while some in Washington charge that India is too caught up with its “neighborhood” concerns to assert its influence on the world stage. If the two countries hope to forge a stronger partnership in the 21st century, they will have to navigate past sharp disagreements and bridge wide perception gaps.
Divergent interests kept India and the United States estranged during the Cold War. India’s policy of “moral nonalignment” in the 1950s was viewed in Washington as immoral, while the U.S. arming of Pakistan after 1954 as part of a global containment policy engendered much mistrust in New Delhi. Estrangement continued through the 1970s and 1980s, as India drifted toward the Soviet camp, while the U.S. pursued rapprochement with China and armed Pakistan to undermine the USSR. While the end of the Cold War did lead to some bilateral cooperation, including joint military exercises in the 1990s, India’s nuclear test in 1998 — which it viewed as retaliation for Pakistan’s nuclear tests — drew Washington’s ire. It was only with the signing of the civilian nuclear deal under the Bush administration in 2008 that the relationship began to really take off.
Both sides now realize that there are manifold areas in which to pursue functional cooperation. Economically, India’s blistering growth rates and role in the G-20 means that it is unquestionably a global economic power, with room for expanding bilateral trade, investment, as well as educational linkages. Strategically, Washington views India as a counterbalance to Chinese hegemony in Asia, even if New Delhi is itself at times reluctant to play this role. Both the United States and India are among the world’s top-five greenhouse gas emitters and have been victims of extremism, and are thus vital to solutions on climate change and terrorism. India’s geographic proximity to the Indian Ocean and status as the world’s fifth-largest navy also means that opportunities exist for further cooperation in the maritime domain, from disaster relief to anti-piracy operations and joint patrols. Beyond these interests, both are also large, vibrant democracies.
Yet discord continues to persist. The two countries often lock horns on trade and climate issues, and there is still bad blood surrounding both the collapse of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2008 and the Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009, where New Delhi is said to have colluded with China to obstruct any meaningful outcome. More recently, Indians have hissed at the Obama administration for interfering in the “internal” Kashmir issue, carelessly signing off on a joint U.S.-China role in South Asia (which India considers its neighborhood), and turning a blind eye on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and nuclear activities in exchange for Islamabad’s cooperation in Afghanistan. The United States, for its part, laments India’s more-conciliatory position on Iran and its inability to even pass the requisite legislation for civil nuclear cooperation to begin.
As Jasmeet Ahuja, a staff member for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, told a conference at the American Enterprise Institute recently, “India needs to think strategically about how to engage. . . . If India does not want to, there isn’t much more that the U.S. can do.”
Forging a strategic partnership will require both sides to find a way to compromise on these issues and address their respective concerns, while also managing perception gaps. While India sees the world from the prism of “strategic autonomy” and views itself as a great power and civilization, the United States is used to relationships where it has the dominant voice. Despite the vast asymmetry in terms of material capabilities, both nations engage in preachy moralism, and neither is used to adopting a deferent attitude. Learning to deal with each other amid vibrant media communities and noisy democracies is a challenge in and of itself. The United States must understand and at times accommodate India’s perception of its “inherent greatness,” as India scholar Stephen Cohen once put it. But India similarly needs to comprehend that it is only one of many priorities on the U.S. agenda, and that other interests may at times take precedence.
Washington is often critical of New Delhi’s unwillingness to assume — or ambivalence about — a global role, or to think strategically beyond its immediate neighborhood. At a Brookings Institution event last week, Indian journalist Gautham Adhikari plainly admitted that “India does not have a strategic view of the world,” and urged New Delhi to formulate a comprehensive vision for its foreign policy. At the same time, Washington must grasp the fact that India is still grappling with a complex set of domestic challenges, from poverty that affects a third of its population to a growing Maoist insurgent threat, and external challenges that include a terrorism threat from Pakistan and unresolved border issues with China. Such a full plate understandably weighs New Delhi down and restricts its ability to assert a global presence.
A strong basis for cooperation exists between the United States and India, both in principle and on specific issues. But solidifying a strategic partnership in the 21st century will require compromise, vision and deftness from both sides. For, as Mr. Burns himself has noted, “progress in U.S.-Indian partnership is not automatic,” no matter what the atmospherics may suggest.
Why is it that Indian foreign policy lacks a ‘strategic and global vision’, as some have alleged and I wrote in a previous post?
I decided to look into the state of the international relations discipline in India to see if that might offer some clues. In so doing, I ran across a great speech by former UN Undersecretary General and Indian parliament member Shashi Tharoor addressing this very issue.
In it, Mr. Tharoor argues that the state of IR in India is quite poor. The nation’s colleges and universities lack the resources and expertise to teach international relations well, and are unable to compete with institutions of their ilk in other countries.
International relations is a neglected subject on our campuses…The few colleges that do offer the subject do so in a formalistic and formulaic fashion that ill-equip the student to understand the realities of our contemporary world. JNU [Jawarhal Nehru University] apart, few can hold a candle to the universities in China, Russia or the West that teach international relations to young people of a similar age to the majority of you.
The situation will not improve unless we improve the study of international affairs at our colleges and universities. Last year I was invited by my Singaporean friend Kishore Mahbubani to join a gathering organized by his Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, of some of the most eminent scholars of International Relations to brainstorm on improving the current state of the discipline in India. I couldn’t join his effort but one scholar who did, Amitabh Mattoo, observed that “There are few other disciplines in India… where the gulf between the potential and the reality is as wide as it is in the teaching and research of IR at Indian universities. Interest in India and India’s interest in the world are arguably at their highest in modern times, and yet Indian scholarship on global issues is showing few signs of responding to this challenge.”
Today, IR is taught in more than 100 universities in India, but in Mattoo’s words, “most of the IR departments have a shortage of qualified faculty, poor infrastructure, outdated curriculum and few research opportunities”. More than half the departments do not even have access to the internet, and are deprived of the rich wealth of online resources that students elsewhere in the world can command. Books and journals are in short supply. Little expertise has been developed in specific areas or countries of concern to India…Foreign languages are poorly taught, resources for study trips abroad are scarce, research is of varying quality and opportunities for cross-fertilization at academic conferences practically non-existent.
As a result, says Mr. Tharoor, Indian students are ill-equipped to enter an increasingly globalized world and India lacks a global vision required for such a world.
A young Indian scholar, Raja Karthikeya Gundu, recently wrote: “Few Indian students go beyond the West for study, and even if they wanted to, there are barely any scholarships or resources from government or private sector to do so. The average Indian has barely any understanding of foreign cultures, norms and worldviews, and satellite TV and Internet have not managed to change this. Hence, in the absence of global exposure, Indians continue to be an inward-looking nation burdened by prejudice. Thus, it is no surprise that when Indians travel abroad for the first time in their mature years, they are often culturally inadaptable and even mildly xenophobic.” This strikes me as somewhat overstated, and yet there is a kernel of truth in it.
To its credit, The Indian government is currently undertaking several education reforms, including enhancing cooperation with U.S. universities under the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative. But that’s still quite a grim picture.